When this pandemic is over, where do you want to wake up and find yourself in?
Straddling the majestic mountain ranges of northern Luzon, the Cordillera Administrative Region is preparing to gradually reopen tourism, to welcome guests eager to rediscover its natural and man-made wonders.
With very low COVID-19 cases (709 confirmed cases as of August 27), the region has been classified as low risk, and preparations are under way for the cautious reboot of its economy. The region has adopted the slogan “Wake Up in the Cordilleras” based on the Department of Tourism’s national tourism recovery plan.
Baguio City earlier announced plans to reopen its doors to tourists, with regulated entry and monitored movement, by September, in time for its 111th charter day on Sept. 1. The city earned praises for its handling of the pandemic with its efficient triage and contact tracing.
“If and when the region opens for tourism, Baguio City will be the hub of tourism activities once more as the other highland provinces might not yet be ready to welcome travelers,” clarifies DOT-CAR officer-in-charge Jovi Ganongan.
Guests can hop around museums, galleries, art cafés, and spaces which locals have transformed into venues of visual and performing arts.
Homegrown dining outlets showcase the rich upland culinary heritage, many of which were rendered a gourmet twist. Among these is Bistro Lokal which offers a new take on favorite Filipino flavors created with the best of organic Cordilleran ingredients.
Al fresco dining, where one can savor the crisp mountain air while indulging in sumptuous food, is an experience available at Le Monet Hotel, The Manor at Camp John Hay, The Barn, and Baguio Country Club, among other establishments away from the crowd.
A fairly new, must-try activity in Baguio is forest bathing, or the Japanese art of wandering in the woods to improve health and well-being. The country’s first Forest Bathing Trail was opened at Camp John Hay’s forest of thick and soft pine needles, canopies, and foliage.
An alternative place to stay is Mirador Jesuit Villa Retreat House, an intimate country-style lodging, formerly a meteorological observatory of Jesuit scientists at Dominican Hill. It has the Knidos Labyrinth where one can pray through slow walking for purification, illumination, and discernment, with the majestic mountains as backdrop.
Another best-kept hideaway is Guesthaven Bed and Breakfast whose restored homes reflect rustic living, with its features reminiscent of American-built houses.
Meanwhile, in Benguet, which is regarded as Cordillera’s center of farm tourism, visitors can immerse in agriculture-based activities.
To enter Baguio, tourists are required to pre-register through the Baguio VIS.I.T.A. (Visitor Information and Travel Assistance), an online registration system where they will see the guidelines on how to proceed.
Among the requirements include pre-booking accommodation and undergoing mandatory triage and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing whose expense will be shouldered by the tourists. Visitors will have to stay in the hotel until their test results are released.
“With stringent health and safety protocols in place, it is just a matter of time before guests can wake up and find themselves in the Cordilleras,” said Ganongan.